How to tell if it's allergies or coronavirus: Dr. Saphier weighs in

As spring arrives in the United States amid the coronavirus outbreak, some people may be having a difficult time discerning between the symptoms of seasonal allergies and the highly infectious COVID-19.

On Fox Nation's "Pandemics and Epidemics 101," Dr. Nicole Saphier, a full-time practicing physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a Fox News contributor, answers all of the frequently asked questions about the outbreak, including how to differentiate a seemingly harmless condition from a more serious one.

"So many people are having nasal congestion and even a cough and they're wondering, is it seasonal allergies? Do I have COVID-9? Is it a common cold?" said Saphier in the Fox Nation special.

"Here's my advice," she continued. "If you have seasonal allergies, you know what that feels like. That is normal for you. You know your body better than anyone else. So if you have symptoms of just seasonal allergies and you've had them in the past, it's probably just your seasonal allergies."

"Now, a coronavirus tends to be an upper-respiratory virus, which is why we [also experience the symptoms of] the common cold, the sneezing, the sniffles," explained Dr. Saphier. "The problem with the novel coronavirus is it's actually going from upper respiratory and sometimes goes to the lower respiratory system, which is why you start getting a cough and shortness of breath and pneumonia. And then this is why people are dying because it's affecting their lungs."

Dr. Saphier noted that if you are uncertain about your condition, it is best to err on the side of caution and potentially seek medical advice.

"Right now, we're trying to mitigate the spread of disease ... We need to contain it. And by doing that, we need to know who's infected. So please, one, if you have any symptoms, just stay home," she advised.

"It doesn't matter. Flu, coronavirus, cold, maybe seasonal allergies. Just try and stay home at this point because we don't know. Do the responsible thing. Help those around you. If you are concerned you have coronavirus, you should call your doctor, call your local hospital. Find out if you should be tested."

There is also uncertainty about the nature of the coronavirus itself, and Saphire broke that down.

"People get confused with the name of the virus. When you hear them say coronavirus, that's speaking in a general sense, that's called the family coronavirus," she said. "There's a lot of subsets underneath that family, including the common cold, which also can be caused by a coronavirus."

"Viruses are actually quite intelligent and they undergo genetic mutations because all they want to do is survive, but they need a host to survive in."

"We've already identified at least two strains of this virus, called the 'L' and the 'S' strain. The 'L' strain tends to be the more lethal or severe strain, while the 'S' strain seems to have more mild symptoms because the virus will continue to mutate in us. So what we are seeing is actually more of the mild strain of the virus because it doesn't actually want to kill the host."

Finally, one of the big questions for Americans concerned about their families is whether or not seemingly healthy family members pose a risk to the sick or elderly members of their families.

"There are a lot of families that have multi-generations living under the same roof," observed Saphier.

"It is crucial to make sure that the elderly population is separated from the rest of the family," she stressed. "Now, that's much easier if they live in a different house."

"You care about your elderly. You say, 'I want to go visit them. I want to go see my parents, I want to see my grandparents. I want to make sure that they're doing OK in this crazy time right now.' But you know what? It's best not to go visit them because you actually don't know, maybe you have the illness," she concluded.

"Pretend everyone has it. And, at this point, you are a risk to the elderly population. Stay away from them if you can, check in on them frequently, make sure that they have enough food, enough drink and any medications that they may need."